The Unexpected Shepherd - Solo Roleplaying in the Wasteland
We asked James Sheahan (designer of Fallout: Wasteland Warfare and the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG expansion) to give us some details on this new Fallout experience.
Comprised of 3 parts, The Unexpected Shepherd is the first solo RPG for Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. The first part, entitled Protection Order, takes place in Century - formed from 100 cargo containers that look like they were dropped in a heap from the sky in the middle of the Wasteland, then a small town hastily worked around and through them decades later. Welcome to Century. Jewel of the Wasteland... so the weathered sign laying on the ground says. You have arrived at Century to answer the call of Clancy, an old friend to whom you owe more than just a simple favour.
I remember one of my first experiences of role-playing-type gaming was in 1982 when I read (well, played) the very first book in the Fighting Fantasy series - Warlock of Firetop Mountain. For those unfamiliar with it or its like, you read a numbered section of the book and make decisions which then direct you to which section to read next, i.e. if you sneak into the darkened chamber, go to 26; or, if you cast your light spell and stride in boldly, go to 70. These choose-a-path style adventure books offer a superb mix of story-telling where you make decisions to affect the outcome, and in some cases you roll dice to make skill tests and/or resolve combat.
The Unexpected Shepherd utilises this format with numbered sections and uses the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG rules system to determine various Skill Tests throughout. When you begin, you choose one of three pre-generated characters so you can get playing straight away. Also, the solo RPG uses F:WW RPG’s special chase system too.
However, The Unexpected Shepherd goes further than normal choose-a-path stories because major encounters are played out just as if you were playing the RPG using models on the table and uses Fallout: Wasteland Warfare’s AI system to control the opposing models instead of requiring a GM. Plus, The Unexpected Shepherd remembers choices you have made and restricts your time in some areas, forcing you to make tough decisions. All of this brings the experience even closer to playing an RPG without a GM.
Using the F:WW RPG rules system means a player can have their character perform skill tests in the same way as the role-playing game. However, if this was a solo RPG then I wanted to push things further and try to make the book be as close to role-playing as possible - this meant more than just delivering a story exploring an area - it needed to include some of the things a GM provides like memory of previous events so actions have consequences.
To this end, The Unexpected Shepherd uses a game mechanic to record some events using a simple page of boxes. At certain points, the book directs the player to record things in specific boxes – sometimes the player is told what those boxes are for - and later sections use the contents of those boxes to influence what happens or what choices the player is offered. (I won’t give any specific examples from the book here so as not to give spoil any surprises.) For example, if you chose not to help put the fire out, you may be told to tick a box without knowing that a tick in that box will mean the locals there will offer you little help in return later; whereas, if the box was not ticked, the locals would offer you various assistance.
As well as consequences, a GM often limits the time players have to accomplish a task or sets a deadline before something happens. For example, the Super Mutants usually attack at sundown so the players have limited time in which to build defences, gather supplies, run for the hills, etc. In The Unexpected Shepherd, boxes are sometimes used to record time - the player is told to fill-in a box after each thing they do, and if that row of boxes is full then time is up and they must move on to a specified section whether they are ready or not (with their actions influencing what will happen). Other factors can be tracked too such as needing to complete enough tasks before the trust of a Railroad group can be won.
As well as memory and consequences, I realised there was something else that could make The Unexpected Shepherd even more like playing an RPG. Choose-a-path stories often let you roll dice to determine combat but they’re not like role-playing game sessions where you play out encounters and the GM controls the opponents. However, as the rules system for the F:WW RPG is based on the miniatures game, the F:WW RPG could use the AI system allowing you to play out the larger moments using models on the table and with the AI controlling the non-player characters. As the AI can accomplish any objective rather than just combat, the encounters could have you defending an item as the NPCs try to steal it, or you could be racing to gather holotapes whilst the NPCs use terminals to delete their contents, and so on. What you have, or have not, done so far can influence these encounters too. Like with normal RPGs, you don’t have to use terrain and scenery either – though you can if you want – as you can just draw the location’s floorplan on a piece of paper.
As a result, The Unexpected Shepherd combines the numbered sections so you make decisions and Skill Tests as you go, memory so your actions can have effects later, time-tracking and the ability to play the action of encounters in full. Mixed together, this should make the solo RPG for Fallout: Wasteland Warfare a really exciting and interesting experience.
I won’t say much about the storyline as it reveals itself as you play. I can say it involves repaying a favour, a road trip and, er, well, that’s about it. The Unexpected Shepherd is spilt into three parts which make up the entire story with each part following on from the previous one. Some of your actions in one part may not come home to roost until a later part too.
Protection Order (which is part 1 of The Unexpected Shepherd) is the first solo scenario for the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG
To play The Unexpected Shepherd requires the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare RPG Expansion.